Genital Warts

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  • What are they? Genital warts are small fleshy growths which may appear anywhere on a man or Womanís genital area. A virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes them. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, most of which are harmless and will cause things such as common skin warts, i.e. those found on the hands and soles of the feet. About 30 types are spread through sexual contact Genital warts (sometimes called condylomata acuminata or venereal warts) are the most easily recognized sign of genital HPV infection. They are very common, with around 80,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK in 2004.
  • Symptoms: You can have the HPV virus for years without getting any warts Ė in fact most sexually active people have been exposed to the HPV yet never show any symptoms. If warts do appear it can be between 1 and 3 months after you have became infected but it can also take much longer. You or your partner may notice pinkish/white small lumps or larger cauliflower-shaped lumps on the genital area these can be either raised or flat and occur singularly or in groups Genital warts can show up in women on the vulva and cervix, and inside and surrounding the vagina and anus. If a woman has warts on her cervix, this may cause slight bleeding or, very rarely, an unusual coloured vaginal discharge. In men, genital warts can appear on the scrotum or penis or around the anus. They may itch, but are usually painless. There are cases where genital warts have been found on the thigh and groin
  • Transmission: Genital warts are very contagious if you have sex or genital contact with someone who has genital warts you may develop them too they are spread by skin-to-skin contact during oral, vaginal, or anal sex (It is possible for warts to spread to the area around the anus without having anal sex N.B the infection can also be passed on using unwashed sex toys. It is important to remember that often people can be infected but have no symptoms, they can still spread HPV to their sexual partner. The only way you can prevent getting an HPV infection is to avoid direct contact with the virus, Using condoms when having sex will reduce your risk of developing HPV genital warts.
  • Treatment: A doctor or nurse can usually tell whether you have genital warts just by looking. If warts are suspected but not obvious, the doctor may apply a weak vinegar-like solution (acetic acid) to the outside of the genital area. This solution causes infected areas to whiten, which makes them more visible. To check for any hidden warts, the doctor may carry out an internal examination of the vagina or anus If genital warts are evident then you may be prescribed an anti wart liquid or cream such as Podophyllotoxin,. Another common treatment is freezing off the warts or laser treatment. If you have large warts that have not responded to other treatment, you may have to have surgery to remove them Often more than one kind of treatment is necessary before the warts are gone. These treatments may be uncomfortable, but they should not be painful. Throughout treatment it is especially important to ensure that the genital areas are kept clean and dry yet scented soaps, bath oils or vaginal deodorants should not be used. If you are a woman with genital warts, you will be examined for possible HPV infection of the cervix to check for cervical cancer this is done by taking a small piece of tissue from the cervix and having it examined under the microscope (this is only as a precaution as it is rare that the strain of HPV that causes visible warts is associated with cancer).
  • Post Treatment: The warts themselves can be removed, but the virus that causes them canít be cured. The majority of people whose warts initially disappear will get a recurrence as the virus is still present in your body It is therefore important that you continue to go for regular check ups Make sure your partner has a check up too as they may have warts which they havenít noticed. Click here for a list of agencies you can contact should you require further information or help.

If there are any health workers that could help us keep our pages updated please mail us as we are very aware that new research and information is constantly being published on Genital Warts. Your help would be much appreciated.

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